As much as I try to resist looking at the old photos and videos taken through my marriage, sometimes I just get this urge to look at them again. I feel the need to try and recapture, in my mind, the feelings I had and the life I led before this nightmare began.
A few days ago, I watched a video that I had really been avoiding. The video was taken during the Christmas before everything happened. In the video I am walking around my home filming what was, for me, such a special Christmas moment. It was snowing outside and inside the house was glowing with fairy lights and candles, Christmas music gently echoing through the home. In the video I am laughing with my husband as I attempt to get him on film.
My home, my husband, my life.
Watching it, I am transported back to that moment and can remember exactly how I felt. I was in love, I felt safe, I was happy. I suddenly felt such an ache watching it and I remembered why I had avoided this video. Despite this I couldn’t help but rewind it and watch it again. This time, however, something different happened.
As I watched the video again everything started to look so very different. It dawned on me that in that moment, in the frames of that memory recorded on my phone, I was blissfully unaware of what was actually going on in my husband’s life, of his betrayal. I was totally naive to the things that he was capable of, the way he was already silently preparing hurtful deeds.
I realise now that the safe feeling I was basking in was a lie, I wasn’t secure at all. In fact within a matter of weeks my life was to be plunged into chaos as he discarded of me in such an abrupt and cruel way.
Having knowledge of this now skewed what I saw before me in that video, it altered it. Throughout the divorce I’ve become used to this new bizarre lens that everything seems to be filtered through, what I like to refer to as the divorce hall of mirrors.
As you walk through the hall of mirrors the reality you knew, or thought you knew, is distorted, skewed and tampered with. You may come to realise that not one part of your life remains untouched or intact in this new reality. It can feel as though you have stepped into a totally different universe. It’s a strange and crooked place that can be difficult to navigate.
I find that so much of my past often doesn’t quite look or feel the same anymore. It is hard to reconcile the gentle, caring husband in those memories with the man he is now. It is hard to look at the happiness and love in those memories and not find them becoming hazy under the understanding of the betrayal that was to come.
Throughout my divorce there has been no part of my life that hasn’t been up for grabs when it comes to my husband’s mission to come out on top and ensure his self preservation. At every stage he has presented false versions of the marriage we had and the reality of our relationship, false versions of me and who I am. It has been another layer of hurt and pain alongside his betrayal and abandonment.
I realise now that when someone has done something so cruel to someone they were meant to love there are all sorts of mechanisms that kick in for them to justify it to themselves and to others. There can be all sorts of manipulations and behaviours they display to detach from you and make others do the same.
Gaslighting has become a constant fixture in my divorce hall of mirrors. I have experienced it for near on a year and the frustration and powerlessness leaves me feeling so exhausted and defeated and at times it has driven me to despair.
I have had to grow myself a skin of Teflon and have had to resist engaging in the false version of reality that my husband relies on to shield himself from his betrayal and cruelness. I have had to guard my memories and protect my identity even more fiercely. At this point, I feel like I have been living in a haze of forced confusion for so long that everything feels off kilter.
When I look to my future that too feels like it will now be completely alien to what I had believed it would be. The future I thought I had has disappeared, the dreams I had have been yanked away from me unclaimed. I can’t even seem to comprehend what my future might look like now and when I try to it just makes me feel so strange and uncomfortable.
The divorce hall of mirrors has been an unsettling thing to navigate. Certain people I had loved now seem so different, memories have become tainted, reality twisted and distorted. At this point I am thirsty for honesty and truth.
In the midst of all the distorted reflections there is one thing that I have tried to hold onto. One thing that I know to be true. Who I actually am.
No matter what is said or done, no matter how things have become distorted, my character remains. Who I am remains.
When I watch that video from my past with my husband, when I stand in the place I’m in now and when I look to the future, I know I have and will remain true to myself because my character is something that isn’t up for grabs. It can’t be tampered with or played with. No matter how lies and hurt and manipulation try to conceal it, it still shines through.
God protects my identity and who I am. With each lie or hurtful word I have to actively remind myself of that truth. I have to remind myself that no matter what is said or done, I am still me.
The hall of mirrors can make you feel out of control, powerless and at the mercy of other people’s motives but hold firm to who you are. We may have had so much ripped away from us but who we are and our character, is something that no one can take from us.
A mirror reflects an image of a real object. It is important to remember though, that while a mirror can be distorted, tampered with and modified to change the way the object is perceived, the object remains the same.
If we smash the mirrors that others hold up to us to try and distort our truth, we can reclaim our real identity and hold firm to who we truly are.